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As everyone knows we here at JPFmovies love our guest reviewers. So here is our latest guest reviewer Tom V. looking at Maximum Overdrive (1986) written and directed by Stephen King. Don’t watch it sober.

“The video game says “play me”
Face it on a level but it takes you every time on a one on one
Feeling running down your spine
Nothing gonna save your one last dime ’cause it own you
Through and through

The data bank know my number
Says I gotta pay ’cause I made the grade last year
Feel it when I turn the screw
Kicks you round the world, there ain’t a thing that it can’t do to you”

AC DC Who Made Who (1986)

The concept of this movie was truly extraordinary.  Artificial Intelligence and the Revolt of the Machines.  Starring Emilio Estevez, Pat Hingle and Laura Harrington, directed by Stephen King and featuring an exclusive soundtrack by AC DC what could possibly go wrong?  Well, pretty much everything.  There is no logical explanation why anyone would want to stay sober during the viewing of this film.  From a stunning lack of directing, to editing which seems to string together scenes that vaguely relate to one another, to laughably abysmal acting — Maximum Overdrive provides a cornucopia of disappointment. Aside from cocktails and good company, why watch this movie?  This is the first and last attempt at directing by Stephen King.  Who can pass up that kind of milestone?

The Plot:

As the Earth passes through the tail of a comet, previously inanimate objects suddenly spring to life and turn homicidal. In a pre-title scene, a man (King in a cameo) tries to withdraw money from an ATM, but it instead calls him an “asshole”, and he whines to his wife (King’s real life wife Tabitha). Chaos soon begins as machines of all kinds come to life and begin rampaging and murdering all available humans.

The machine carnage spreads as humans and even pets are brutally killed by lawnmowers, chainsaws. Our gang of actors gather at a roadside truck stop called “The Dixie Boy Dinner” just outside Wilmington, North Carolina, where a waitress is stalked and then badly injured by an electric knife.  Classic video games electrocute another victim. Employee and ex-convict Bill Robinson, played by Emilio Estevez, begins to suspect something has gone very wrong with the machines.

Robinson’s belief is reinforced by the marauding big rig trucks, which have formed a gang.  The Big Rig Truck Gang is led by a Western Star 4800 Rig sporting a giant Green Goblin mask on its grille.  Apparently, Stephen King bet bank that the Green Goblin would induce fear in the viewer.  Honestly put, the Green Goblin looked like something Carnies use to promote small block parties with machines of questionable repair and safety.  No matter how many times Green Goblin goes around the truck stop or chases down a hapless survivor, it’s just not invoking the fear factor.  Truth be told Carnies are typically much more scary.

At any rate, as if being menaced by the Carnie-like Green Goblin wasn’t enough, Robinson rallies the truck stop survivors; they use a cache of firearms and M72 LAW rockets stored in a bunker hidden under the Dixie Boy Diner and destroy many of the trucks. The Big Rig truck gang fights back in the form of both a Caterpillar D7G bulldozer, which drives through the Dixie Boy Diner and a M274 Mule, which fires its post-mounted M60 machine gun into the building, killing several of the Truck Stop Survivors.  The Mule then demands, via sending Morse Code signals through its horn, that the humans pump the truck’s diesel for them in exchange for keeping them safe; the survivors soon realize they have become enslaved by their own machines.

Reneging on the fueling operation, Robinson sneaks a grenade onto the Mule vehicle, destroying it, then leads the party out of the diner via a sewer hatch to the main road just as the trucks demolish the entire truck stop. The survivors are pursued to the docks by the Green Goblin truck — which manages to kill one more trucker after he steals a ring from a female corpse in a car — before Robinson destroys the truck once and for all with a direct hit from an M72 LAW rocket shot. The survivors then sail off to safety.  Oddly with all the machines revolting, from electric carving knives, transistor radios to video games to big rigs, the movie gives no explanation as to why the expensive motor boats have not also become blood thirsty man killers.

As Robinson and the survivors sailed off into safety, I began to realize that I would never get that time back in my life.  Fortunately, Brandy Old Fashioned(s) made the entire experience, using the recently released 30th Anniversary edition, palatable.  Oddly enough, the trailer doesn’t contain any AC DC Music, the one redeeming quality about this movie.

This film was nominated for a Razzi award—and rightly so.  It was also Stephen King’s only foray into directing films—again rightly so. Maximum Overdrive is the Sharnado of 1980s films. Speaking of which, JPFMovies will soon be reviewing Sharnado–stay tuned.

 
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Posted by on May 16, 2017 in Movie Reviews

 

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Iron Eagle—It should have dropped like a stone.

My friends and colleagues have always told me I have an incredibly high threshold for bad movie pain.  Material they can’t bear to watch is nothing but a light triscuit to me; that is until the likes of Iron Eagle drops in.  I had to put myself into mental lockdown mode for this one and while I came through unscathed, it was tough to put Iron Eagle in the “even though it sucks you still have to watch it column.”  Very few movies reach that point—but I suppose it is a continuum because the farther you push you eventually come around.  But Iron Eagle almost falls in that dead zone before the continuum begins to curve back to the “still sucks but watch it anyway” category.  What I really really don’t understand is the fact that Louis Gosset Jr. (winner of an Academy Award for his role as Sargent Foley in An Officer and a Gentleman) continued to play “Chappy Sinclair” in three additional Iron Eagle films.  The third one based on the premise that four WWII planes could be retrofitted with laser-guided missiles.  Yes, I know, movies are supposed to be a time for suspended belief but for goodness’ sake that shit can kill you.

Putting that to one side let’s get back to this abortion.

Doug Masters (Jason Gedrick), son of veteran U.S. Air Force pilot Col. Ted Masters (Tim Thomson), is a music lover and a civilian pilot, hoping to follow in his father’s footsteps. But because he is a loser he receives a notice of rejection from the Air Force Academy. But the drama continues with his father being shot down and captured by an unnamed Arab nation (Libya) while patrolling over the Mediterranean Sea.  A kangaroo court finds Col. Masters guilty of trespassing over their territory and sentences him to hang in three days.

Doug decides to take matters into his own hands and come up with his own rescue mission (at 16).  He requests the help of “Chappy,” a Vietnam veteran pilot currently on reserve command, who has known Col. Masters for only a couple of years.  At first Chappy has his doubts, but Doug convinces him that with his friends, he has full access to the airbase’s intelligence and resources and he can give him an F-16 fighter for the mission.  What could be better than that you ask?  He learns that Chappy had already begun planning the rescue operation himself after he learned the outcome of Col. Masters’ trial!  I had no idea that court cases from unnamed countries were published in the U.S.  Doug and his crew of young fellow service brats plan a mission and manage to procure two heavily-armed F-16 planes, with Doug flying the second unit.

At this point we start to get some flashbacks (or sideways I am not sure).  Doug starts reminiscing about cutting school to fly training missions with his father in his F-16, but needing to have his Sony cassette Walkman playing before he can do any real piloting.  Performing Air Force Thunderbird pilot-like acrobatics while jamming, he is clearly the next Greg “Pappy” Boynton. 

Doug and Chappy fly these planes to the Mediterranean Sea (including inflight refueling) and cross into the enemy nation’s airspace.  In the ensuing battle, three MiG-23 fighters are downed by our dynamic duo and destroy an airfield, but Chappy’s plane is damaged by an anti-aircraft gun.  Doug climbs to a high altitude and plays a tape Chappy made him the night before, but then his engine fails and Doug listens as Chappy’s fighter goes down crashing into the sea at Mach 1.

Chappy’s recorded voice tells Doug how to finish the mission anticipating every obstacle that he could possibly face.  Making the enemy believe he is leading a squadron (they must have shitty radar), Doug threatens the enemy nation into releasing his father from prison and moving him to the base’s northernmost runway for pickup.  But before Doug lands his plane, Col. Masters is shot by an Arab sniper, causing Doug to destroy the airbase and engulf the runway with precisely placed napalm to keep the army at bay while he lands and picks up his wounded father.

Just as they take off, Doug and his father encounter another group of MiGs led by Col. Akir Nakesh (David Suchet) — himself an ace pilot. The lone F-16 and Nakesh’s MiG engage in a long dogfight until a missile from Doug finishes off Nakesh. Low on fuel and ammunition, the F-16 is being pursued by the other enemy MiGs when another squadron of U.S. Air Force F-16s appear, scaring off the MiGs before escorting Doug and his father to Ramstein Air Base in Germany.

While Col. Masters is being treated for his wounds, Doug and Chappy are reunited. Chappy, of course, had ejected from his plane and was picked up by a fishing trawler. The two are summoned by an Air Force judiciary panel for their “reckless actions,” not for something like treason.  Seeing that any form of punishment for the duo would expose an embarrassing lapse in Air Force security, the panel forgoes prosecution as long as Doug and Chappy never speak of their operation to anyone. In addition, Chappy convinces the panel to grant Doug admission to the Air Force Academy.  All is well after they return on a plane assigned by the President to the States.

How bad can it be you ask?  For god’s sake, Twisted Sister and Dio actually appear on the soundtrack and never mind that the mission is initially planned in a juke joint restaurant. Or that its posturing and puffed up escapades make Top Gun look like Catch-22. Or that the only women we see are either crying, making mistakes, or not talking at all. This is a world where young boys put small, faded pictures of their girlfriends in a lonely corner while their rooms are overwhelmed by full color glossies of jets, rockets, and studs-in-arms. If the aim of Iron Eagle was to make military combat seem like a video game set to rock music, I can only say: mission accomplished. All of this outrage, however, ignores the central fact that a teenage boy manages to fly into hostile territory and save his father from some member of the Axis of Evil, all without getting so much as a scratch. Right.

Again, only because of many years of dedicated training I was able to escape unscathed.  But, as they tell you on T.V., don’t try this at home.

 
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Posted by on May 27, 2011 in Movie Reviews

 

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Here is one I’ll bet many of you have not seen: FM (1978)

I feel I must disclose that probably my favorite non-jazz band, Steely Dan, recorded the sound track for this film—the title song being of course “FM.” Steely Dan–FM Theme FM the movie is about Q-SKY– the number one radio station in Los Angeles chiefly because the proverbial inmates run the asylum.  These attention-grabbing radio personalities include: Jeff Dugan, the rebellious radio station manager; Mother, who is burned out from being a DJ; Eric Swan, a self-centered and self-styled romantic who wants more than just being a DJ; The Prince of Darkness, the hip night DJ; and Laura Coe, the easy-going type.  The station personnel play the music they want to, only use certain advertisers, sponsoring concerts/benefits as well as some other “unorthodox” non-corporate ways to make the station their own and the best in LA.  They have operated relatively autonomously, free from corporate interference for some time.  However, the corporate machine is about to try to turn their No.1 position into cash.  The movie centers on the inevitable battle between Jeff and his corporate bosses, who want more advertising and money at the cost of music.

The skirmish grows until sales manager Regis Lamar from corporate HQ presents him with a business opportunely to advertise for the U.S. Army using a series of cheesy radio ads. When Jeff refuses to endorse the contract, Regis takes the issue to upper management who orders Jeff  to run the ads as provided by the Army and on the schedule specified in the advertising contract. Jeff takes a stand and quits his job.

In a show of solidarity with their fearless manager the remaining DJs decide to take control of the station in a sort of lock-in/sit-in/protest.  They incite listeners to gather in the street outside the station and protest while the DJs play music without any commercials.

Jeff Dugan wakes up to hear the DJs take control of the station. The crowd is already present when he arrives at the station. The DJs lift him up to the second story with a fire hose as they have already barricaded the front doors.  The office siege in lasts only until the police arrive to remove the staff.  Not willing to go down without a fight, the DJs battle back using a fire hose and throwing tapes and other office objects at the police.  The conflict is resolved when Jeff Dugan finds himself fighting a policeman outside on an overhang and saves the policeman from falling off and sees that fighting is the wrong thing to do.  He calms the crowd and announces that the DJs are coming out.

Unknown to him, the company owner Carl Billings has watched from the crowd as the events unfolded. He insists that the DJs stay in the station, fires his management staff responsible for the advertising conflict, and then joins the DJs inside the station.

In addition, the film includes live appearances by Linda Ronstadt, Jimmy Buffett, Tom Petty, and REO Speedwagon. Steely Dan performs the title theme, and Dan Fogelberg, Joe Walsh, Boz Scaggs and Queen also contributed soundtrack music. The film debuts  several future hits like We Will Rock You (in the protest rally sequence) and Life’s Been Good integrated into the plot.

I had a really hard time getting my hands on this movie a couple of years ago, but I am glad I did.  The music, sound track and real appearances by the artists themselves make this movie worth watching on its own.  Unfortunately, it is hard to find and even harder to find someone who has seen it to enjoy it with.  If you can, see it, if you can’t just get the soundtrack.

 
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Posted by on February 1, 2011 in Movie Reviews

 

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